They say there are only 7 basic plots in writing, and that every story is simply another permutation based on 1 of these 7 stories.
Let’s leave it to Christopher Booker and the Twitter-birds to argue that point. All we here at buckelsbooks know for a surety is that a cleverboots writer can still and always craft something that at least sounds original. There are many ways to create a killer-diller tale.
In my short stories staring Henry Sprinkle, for example, I was inspired to make my MC blind.
This presents not only a writing challenge, but a dynamite opportunity to grandstand, to push my writing chops to greater heights. I also made him a living anachronism: Sprinkle speaks with a 40’s slang, despite being a pathologist in the 21st century.
I’d like to show you a sample from his second story, Sprinkle Gets Spread (currently free on Smashwords).
At the piano sat a man who was not a man, playing a jazz ditty that was not jazz.
Sprinkle didn’t mind either case. He’d heard it through the grapevine, that tidbit about the new people, those special people who could, apparently, choose their gender. It made no sense to a man raised by saints in the sixties, one clearly a gentleman, the other a lady by any definition of the word. But in his topping mood he shrugged it off as one of those new age tidbits June Dye was forever trying to educate him on—with little success.
Apparently he was, as June insisted, an old foggy stuck in his old-foggy ways.
As for the music, well, he might’ve preferred Ipanema by Night, but the person, the piano player, had a knack for hitting all the right high notes with just the right pressure. They struck a chord, did those notes, with his mood.
So Sprinkle listened, soaking up the ambiance.
It helped to nurse a cocktail that wasn’t a cocktail. Sprinkle smiled, thinking on these oddities. At Tootsie’s you could have antlers on your head and ask for a Devil’s Armpit and no one would give you a hairy eyeball—unless that was the drink you ordered. He raised his glass. “To us,” and then took a nip of the sauce. It had been his idea to paint the town with June, to celebrate their capture of Jimmy Baker, poisoner extraordinaire.
But within five minutes some dude smelling of desperation and Hot Spots aftershave had swept her away, out onto the dance floor to cut the rug.
He tried listening for her.
June laid claim to an endearing little giggle that could be heard from across a room, if that room wasn’t occupied by dozens of dancers and diners smacking their gobs off while an orchestra swallowed the dulcet tones of a piano being played by a man who was not a man.
Sprinkle turned back to his drink with a shrug.
June would return to him in time; she always did, the khacki-wacky dolly.
Sprinkle hoisted the glass to his lips, received only a trio of shrunken ice cubes for his trouble. He lowered the glass to the smooth wet countertop. “So I am.”
“Let me buy you the next round,” said the voice, a couple octaves lower than June’s but several too high to belong to a man (though he supposed he couldn’t be too sure of that, these days).
Sprinkle nodded. “Mighty fine of you, stranger.”
“I’m Eleanor Spread,” said the voice.
Sprinkle thrust his hand out and waited for the woman to shake it. When she did, he gripped her hand, firm but not to the point of discomfort, and used his left to read her wrist. It was thin but not anorexic, supple without being laden down with excessive hand lotion, all of which provided him with the requisite blind-man-equivalency of an image of Eleanor Spread. On detecting her submission to his ritual, Sprinkle took the liberty of reaching out for her other hand, pretending to ‘check for scars’ but really to see if she wore a ring.
“Henry Sprinkle,” he said, finally pumping her hand once before releasing her. “I will take another cranberry seltzer, thank you very much.”
She was kind enough to order his drink and an apple martini for herself without making any cracks about his selection being ‘wimpy’ or ‘a drink for those on the wagon.’
“Tell me, Miss Spread,” Sprinkle said once they had their drinks in hand there at the bar. “What brings you out to the Toot this evening? I would be shocked and amazed to find that a woman of such refined manners is out alone, no gentleman callers calling on your wonderfully unique name.”
As he’d hoped, Sprinkle was treated to laughter, a hearty genuine sort of music.
“Well then, prepare to be shocked and amazed,” returned Miss Spread. “I like to hit the jazz clubs every weekend. Don’t laugh, but, I call it ‘taking my stroll.’”
Sprinkle, who was facing Miss Spread, hands nervously grasping the sweating glass of untouched sourness, nearly giggled. “Well I’ll be buggered if that ain’t just the cat’s meow. I’ve been known to take strolls myself, on occasion, when the mood strikes. Who would’ve thought I would meet a fellow hepcat tonight?”
“Well,” said Miss Spread, “it is a jazz lounge.”
Sprinkle, filled with mirth and embarrassment, said “Hold on a tick while I pull my foot out of my mouth.” They laughed together.
As far as conversations go, the one that continued between Sprinkle and Spread might go down as a doozy, though not exactly something to flip your wig over.
Several magnificent minutes passed by while they charmed each other up and down. The familiar aroma of June wafting his way gave Sprinkle pause. On detecting the scent of her shampoo, he spun on the stool to face where he believed the lass to be.
“June, dear, I don’t smell your fellow. Did he turn out to be a dead-hoofer?”
A pause, filled with meaning, followed his words.
“He was fine,” June said at last. “Who’s your new friend?”
Sprinkle stood, a smidgen dizzy with giddiness. “Where are my manners? June Dye, this is Miss Eleanor Spread, a fellow hepcat and a real like gem of a dame, I suspect. Miss Spread, this is my assistant and close friend, June. She works with me in the morgue at the Maxwell Building.”
“Pleased to meet you,” Spread said.
For her part June made a noncommittal grunt and offered her hand, as Sprinkle deduced when her wrist brushed against his side.
“You mind if I speak to Henry, alone?”
“Oh,” Spread seemed a bit miffed, her tone one of loss bordering irritation. “Of course.”
June grabbed his arm, a bit rougher than Sprinkle was accustomed to, and he did not fail to register the shift in his assistant’s mood. After leading him through the crowd, jostling a jovial couple or two, June stopped. By the aromas and slightly muffled sounds and subtle decrease in temperature here, Sprinkle deduced that they were standing near the exit.
“I think we should leave.”
He didn’t have to see to know the petite young dolly was crossing her arms and sporting a most unbecoming evil eye.
“Alright, what’s wrong?”
“Don’t give me that dismissive tone,” she snapped.
As was his way, Sprinkle took a deep breath. He disliked confrontation. Made him feel icky, but sometimes, especially where it concerned dames (what with their astonishing capacity for beautiful, shifting, and occasionally tragic emotions), he knew it could not be avoided.
“What’s bothering you, dear?”
A long bloated moment passed before June answered, now in a subdued voice. “There’s something fishy about that woman.”
“Fishy? Really? She smelled fine to me.”
June playfully socked his shoulder. “You know what I mean, smart-alec. There’s this look about her. Like she’s hiding something. I don’t think you met by accident.”
Sure, this is the Comedy Plot of the 7 Basic Plots motif, but (at least I believe it deserves a ‘but’ here) it is playful and employs a unique voice and language, lending the tales a fresh voice.
This is just one example of the countless methods you as a fine writer might use to give your work that sense of originality it needs to rise above the mountain of work already out there. I hope you enjoyed the Sprinkle snippet and were inspired to to boldness in your own writing endeavors, to make your tales real humdingers.